The Ultimate Guide to Holotropic Breathwork.

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Journeys of transformation with breath and music

Who am I

I am Meena Iyer, coach, healer and breathwork facilitator. I am writing to share my experiences in the field of Holotropic Breathwork, Inner Child Healing and Addiction Recovery. 

Quick Intro and Disclaimer

I am Meena Iyer, coach, healer and breathwork facilitator. I have trained in counseling psychology, NLP, Hypnotherapy and breathwork facilitation. I have run my own de-addiction center in Gurgaon working individually and in groups with addicts, alcoholics and their families.I now offer one-on-one coaching and facilitate online and offline workshops/ retreats on Inner Child Healing and Breathwork. 

Here is a disclaimer too. As I share my knowledge, experience and skills, they are constantly evolving and transforming, keeping pace with my own growth. If you feel ready to embark on this journey taking responsibility for the outcomes, hop on. The information shared here is for educational purposes only and not meant to substitute any professional guidance. There could be material not from the public domain which has been used to illustrate or explain only and not for infringement of intellectual property rights. Pls do not copy or share in any manner and infringe intellectual property rights. Information here is as understood and applied by me. Pls use your discretion while applying the same.

My contact details : meenaiyer99@gmail.com +91 99999 66540.

Who is this post for (The Ultimate Guide to Holotropic Breathwork) 

Anyone and not limited to :

  • Those in therapy or coaching seeking to accelerate their healing 
  • Those actively seeking healing from significant emotional issues
  • Those dealing with loss – death of a loved one, divorce or a broken relationship
  • Those looking to work on chronic behavior patterns
  • Those seeking to strengthen spiritual connection
  • Practitioners of psychotherapeutic, energy healing modalities 
  • Those that are curious to journey into their psyche to enhance creativity
  • Those stuck or plateaued out in a life or work situation
  • Those facing chronic health issues (see contra-indications)

Why am I writing this post?

Holotropic Breathwork is a very powerful and deceptively simple healing process. I have found great benefits myself in participating in these sessions and certifying as a facilitator. I know that this technique works whether as a one off experiential session or taken in regular doses. It really speeds up trauma release from the body; sometimes without the effort needed to go into painful narratives. I am hosting workshops in different cities to reach a large audience. I am also in the process of  setting up  a training schedule for those who wish to get certified as facilitators. This blog is meant to reach those who are looking to participate and those who wish to train in  Holotropic Breathwork. I am writing this to distinguish Holotropic Breathwork from many other kinds of breathwork with or without the accompaniment of music. 

What am I going to cover ?

  1. What is Holotropic Breathwork?
  2. The History and Origins of Holotropic Breathwork
  3. The principle at the core of Holotropic Breathwork
  4. The benefits of Holotropic Breathwork
  5. The practice of Holotropic Breathwork
  6. Precautions and Safety tips for Holotropic Breathwork
  7. Testimonials from Breathwork Participants
  8. Finding a Certified Holotropic Breathwork Facilitator
  9. Frequently asked questions about Holotropic Breathwork

Holotropic Breathwork is a powerful approach to self-exploration and healing that uses deep, fast breathing with evocative music to access non-ordinary states of consciousness. This post will provide a comprehensive guide to Holotropic Breathwork, including its history, core principles, practice and benefits.  Whether you’re new to this technique, trying to decide if it is for you,  or looking to deepen your understanding, this guide will provide valuable insights on the role that Holotropic Breathwork can play in your life. You have an opportunity to delve deep into the potential it has as a tool for inner transformation.

1. What is Holotropic Breathwork?

Holotropic Breathwork is a deceptively simple healing technique that integrates insights from modern consciousness research, anthropology, neuro-science and various depth psychologies. Developed by Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof and his wife Christina Grof, Holotropic Breathwork uses deeper and faster than usual breathing and evocative music  to access the unconscious mind and facilitate healing and self-discovery. A way to explore the healing potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness, it draws on ancient spiritual practices and modern psychology to facilitate deep inner exploration and healing.

The term “holotropic” is derived from the Greek words “holos” (whole) and “trepein” (moving toward), reflecting the idea of moving toward wholeness or integration. As the word healing itself means to make whole, this is the most appropriate definition of this process. 

The practice involves  rapid, deep breathing for an extended period of time while lying down, accompanied by evocative music and support from a sitter and  trained facilitators. This can lead to intense physical and emotional experiences, often described as a journey into the depths of the psyche. Dr. Grof coined the word Psychonaut for one making journeys into the psyche. His two volume magnum opus is titled The Way of the Psychonaut, Encyclopedia for Inner Journeys. 

2. The History and Origins of Holotropic Breathwork

Dr Stanislav Grof is one of the pioneers of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. In 1938, LSD was sythesized in Sandoz Laboratores by Albert Hoffman who discovered its psychedelic properties only in 1943. He sent it out to psychiatrists working with patients who were suicidal, depressed or had just been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Until the early 70s when it was declared illegal, Dr. Grof worked successfully with hundreds of clients capturing valuable research. 

He stumbled on Holotropic Breathwork accidentally when he found that research subjects who breathed a little deeper and faster than normal reached deeper states of consciousness conducive to healing. His wife Christina Grof, with an ear for the therapeutic powers of different kinds of music, worked on creating sets of tracks to accompany the breathwork sessions. Thus was born Holotropic Breathwork bringing thousands towards wholeness. 

We are  aware of many shamanic cultures (native American, Mexican, Aboriginal) where plant medicine is ingested to enter deep states where healing, trauma release become easier as does spiritual connection. Sufi whirling and other kinds of dancing to effortlessly enter a trance state, sitting in extreme heat or cold (native American sweat lodges or taking a plunge) meditation practices to awaken Kundalini are all ways to enter non-ordinary states of consciousness. Even Near Death Experiences and spontaneous spiritual awakenings have been reported and written about. Dr. Grof himself wrote a book titled Spiritual Emergency where controversially enough he speaks of phenomena that have been wrongly labeled as pathological conditions while they were opportunities for entering deep states of healing. 

The practice of Holotropic Breathwork is influenced by various spiritual traditions, including shamanism, yoga, and meditation. It also incorporates elements of transpersonal psychology, which focuses on the spiritual and transcendent aspects of human experience.

In recent times we have seen authors like Michael Pollan (How to change your Mind ;what the new science of psychedelics teaches us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence ) gain popularity via their writing, youtube videos and documentaries. We know of James Fadiman who wrote The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide and has extensively researched microdosing psychedelics for mental health.

Over the years, Holotropic Breathwork has evolved and expanded, incorporating insights from various cultures and therapeutic modalities.

3. Core Principle

The practice of Holotropic Breathwork is based on the central principle that the psyche has a natural tendency toward healing and self-realization. Dr. Stanislav called this the Inner Healer. When we are  hurt – even if our skin gets cut, our body moves into action to make itself whole again. There is always an ongoing movement to bring our body, mind and emotions into connecting with ourselves. This inner  wisdom is looking for opportunities to bring into focus our unfinished issues to be resolved.  When this material is identified and made prominent, as in a breathwork session, we can work with it, feel the suppressed feelings and integrate it to make ourselves whole. 

3. The Benefits of Holotropic Breathwork 

Participants of Holotropic Breathwork report a wide range of benefits. However, everybody’s experience is unique. The Inner Healer directs each one to work on that which is most urgent to their life, health and wellbeing. However, almost everyone feels the power of this deep experience, they know something within has shifted undeniably. Some of the benefits are listed below. Please feel free to send a message about the specific area of your life that you are looking to transform via this work. 

  1. Trauma Healing 
  2. Gaining access to repressed memories
  3. Increased self-awareness
  4. Emotional release
  5. Spiritual insights. 
  6. Deep relaxation
  7. Improved quality of sleep
  8. Greater body flexibility 
  9. Reduction of chronic overthinking
  10. Stress Relief
  11. Resolution of chronic issues
  12. Strengthening meditation practice
  13. Concentration and problem solving ability
  14. Greater spontaneity
  15. Stronger relationship with self
  16. Supports connection and belongingness
  17. Personal growth and transformation
  18. Greater sense of meaning and purpose
  19. Removal of barriers towards realization of personal and professional goals
  20. Transcendence and connection to one’s spiritual center

4. The Practice – A Holotropic Breathwork Session is always and only to be undertaken with a certified facilitator and a sitter. You will now understand how a typical group session unfolds. A session has three parts- Preparation, Session  and Integration

Preparation – It is very important that all participants in a group session either in a workshop or a training are screened for contra-indications. Please refer to the section on Precautions and Safety. The opening circle creates the safe space, often called a container or the set and session. The facilitator introduces themselves, invites participants to do likewise and takes their consent to the basic agreements. These are – 

a. To stay for the duration of the session

b. To not harm themselves, any person or property

c. To not act out their sexuality

d. To keep the proceedings confidential

Session – The participants choose their partners from the group. One is a breather and the other a sitter. Their roles are swapped in the next session. Breathers and sitters agree on signs they will use to communicate during the session – to be reminded to breathe in case they fall asleep, for water, a visit to the restroom, a cushion or to be sat or stood up, clear some space for moving or dancing. Breathers lie down with their eyes covered with dark eye masks. After a relaxation, they are instructed to breathe a little faster and a little deeper than usual. The music begins and supports their journey of 2 and a half hours. During this time they may experience content visually or as body sensations, the latter sometimes quite intense and needing support via body work. There is often emotional release as well – weeping, yelling, laughing are all common. By the end of the session, most breathers’ internal processes have been completed and they are ready to open their eyes. For those who are still in the throes, there is support from the facilitators till the time they need it to complete. 

Integration – Coming out of the breathwork session, participants are taken care of and provided a sheet of paper to draw a mandala using crayons and with their non-dominant hands. At the end of the day, there is a sharing circle to permit sharing of the drawings and experiences with each other. Truly the process of integrating a breathwork experience continues for days, weeks and sometimes months. The powerful stimuli that appear in the holotropic state make more sense and are slowly digested as the wisdom of one’s inner healer to be integrated into everyday life.  

5. Precautions and Safety Tips for Holotropic Breathwork  

Holotropic Breathwork should be practiced only under the guidance of a certified facilitator, as the intense experiences it can induce may be overwhelming for some individuals. It is not recommended for those with certain medical or psychological conditions listed below

  1. Retinal Detachment/ Glaucoma
  2. Pregnancy
  3. Recent surgery under General Anesthesia
  4. Existing Heart Condition
  5. High BP
  6. Under medication for certain psychiatric diagnoses

6. Testimonials from Breathwork Participants

Releasing the unwanted stored energy, as though accumulated over the years, the morning was met with such light as though it cleansed my being. The new days begin with feeling like a feather floating through the day, the steps so soft, the words so gentle, and my thoughts so full of love for the person called me. 

Sandhya Tandon, Gurgaon. 

7. Finding a Certified Holotropic Breathwork Facilitator

Holotropic Breathwork has spread around the world, with workshops and training programs offered in many countries. It has attracted a diverse community of practitioners, including therapists, healers, and spiritual seekers. It’s crucial to find a certified Holotropic Breathwork facilitator to ensure that you are receiving safe and effective guidance during your sessions. Look for someone who has completed a comprehensive training program and has a strong understanding of the practice. You can start by researching online or asking for recommendations from others who have experience with Holotropic Breathwork. It’s important to find a facilitator who creates a safe and supportive environment for your healing journey.

At the moment the only person training facilitators in India and certified by Grof Transpersonal Therapy Is Fr. KC Thomas. He has, in Dec 2023, certified one group of facilitators together with Jiva Auroville. The author of this blog is one of them. 

8. Frequently Asked Questions about Holotropic Breathwork

  1. What is suggested after a Holotropic Breathwork session ?
  1. Embrace the experience: Be in acceptance of whatever comes up during your Holotropic Breathwork session, whether it’s stored anger, sadnes, shame or joy, and a sense of peace. Trust that your inner healer  is guiding you through your breath towards healing and transformation.
  2. Reflect on your experience: After your session, take some time to reflect on your experience. Try journaling about any insights or suggestions that came up during your session. 
  3. Practice self-care: After practicing Holotropic Breathwork, be sure to practice self-care. This could involve listening to your mind and body asking for rest, hydration, or engaging in activities that would feel nourishing.
  4. Seek support if needed: If you find that you need support processing your experience, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted friend, therapist, or Holotropic Breathwork facilitator for guidance.

    2   Is Holotropic Breathwork safe for everyone to try? 

When practiced in a supportive and controlled environment with trained facilitators, Holotropic Breathwork is generally considered safe. However, it is not recommended for individuals with certain medical or psychological conditions. Kindly check the section on contra-indications. 

 3. How does Holotropic Breathwork differ from meditation or yoga?

While meditation and yoga also focus on breath and consciousness, Holotropic Breathwork is a more intense and active practice that aims to induce altered states of consciousness for healing and self-exploration.

SUMMARY

In conclusion, Holotropic Breathwork is a powerful technique for self-exploration and healing. It can be a transformative experience and it’s important to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to explore the depths of your consciousness. Whether you’re looking to heal from past trauma, gain insight into your inner world, or simply explore new states of consciousness, Holotropic Breathwork can be a valuable tool on your journey. If you’re interested in learning more about this practice, be sure to check out our upcoming workshop on Holotropic Breathwork.

Meena Iyer

meenaiyer99@gmail.com

+91 9999966540


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